A triptych of paintings by Francis Bacon sold for $142.4 million at Christie's last night, the most ever at auction. But it's like a three-for-one sale—the buyer scored three paintings for the bargain price of about $47.47 million each!
The paintings, "Three Studies of Lucian Freud," were made in 1969 and Christie's had estimated the triptych would go for $85 million. According to the NY Times, "seven superrich bidders" drove the bidding to the astronomical levels: "William Acquavella, the New York dealer, is thought to have bought the painting on behalf of an unidentified client, from one of Christie’s skyboxes overlooking the auction." This is over $20 million more than The Scream sold for last year.
The auction house's contemporary art sale brought in $691.6 million, a new record, with big sales like a Jeff Koons "Ballon Dog" ($58.4 million) and an Andy Warhol Coca-Cola bottle ($57.3 million). According to the Wall Street Journal, "The sale's marquee piece was Bacon's $142.4 million triptych, a three-panel portrait of the artist's friend-turned-artistic-foil Lucian Freud sitting, cross-legged, in a wicker chair against a taxicab-yellow background. Bacon painted the triptych in 1969 and was irritated to learn that each one had been sold separately because he wanted them kept together. Years later, the panels were reunited by a Roman collector, mineral-water magnate Francesco De Simone Niquesa, whose quest which may have added to its appeal. (Mr. De Simone Niquesa later sold the work to the anonymous U.S.-based seller who put it up for auction now.)"
An attendee told Bloomberg News, "It’s a new world. It feels like a reinvention of the art market. I’m overwhelmed." And it looks like auction house's superstitions paid off—from Bloomberg News:
Positioning the Bacon as lot 8A also might have been aimed at attracting Asian bidding.
“Eight is a lucky number in China,” said Eli Klein, whose Manhattan gallery specializes in contemporary Chinese art. “It’s not going to make or break a deal, but it’s preferable to Chinese collectors. If they have a chance to buy edition No. 8, they would.”
[Christie's Brett] Gorvy said of the repositioning: “It seemed to work.”